After considering canceling a planned full-duration test-firing of the Space Launch System’s core stage in Mississippi ahead of the heavy-lift rocket’s first flight, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced this week that the agency will press ahead with the test next year, citing safety and reliability benefits for future astronauts riding on the launcher on missions to the moon.
In a major shakeup at NASA Headquarters, agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday that Bill Gerstenmaier, the widely respected director of human spaceflight, has been replaced in the midst of an ambitious push to meet the Trump administration’s directive to send astronauts back to the moon within five years.
On its second flight, SpaceX’s mammoth Falcon Heavy rocket hurled an Arabsat communications satellite the size of a school bus nearly one-quarter the way to the moon Thursday, days after NASA’s administrator identified the privately-developed rocket as a backup to the agency’s behind-schedule Space Launch System for sending astronauts back to the lunar surface.
The successful test of an Indian anti-satellite weapon March 27 created a cloud of high-velocity debris that poses a near-term threat to other spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, including the International Space Station, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told agency employees Monday. Indian officials said the threat was minimal.
The U.S. Air Force was tracking at least 270 debris fragments created by an Indian anti-satellite missile test, but the debris field posed no immediate threat to the International Space Station or most other satellites in low Earth orbit, a senior U.S. military official said Wednesday in a congressional hearing.
In a major shift, NASA is considering using two commercial launchers to send an unpiloted Orion crew capsule and its European-built service module on a test flight around the moon next year, maintaining the lunar test flight’s schedule despite fresh delays in the development of the multibillion-dollar Space Launch System that jeopardize the heavy-lifter’s 2020 inaugural flight, the agency’s administrator said in a congressional hearing Wednesday.
President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes $21.02 billion for NASA, funding the agency’s ongoing efforts to develop commercial spacecraft and infrastructure in low-Earth orbit and to press ahead with construction and launch of the world’s most powerful rocket and the Orion crew ships that will carry astronauts back to the moon.
NASA announced Thursday nine companies that will be eligible to compete for up to $2.6 billion in contracts over the next decade to ferry scientific instruments and tech demo payloads to the moon aboard commercial robotic landers, a first step in what agency officials said will foster expanded private investment in deep space exploration and an eventual return of humans to the lunar surface.